In Nomine Satanas (6CD+DVD)
Black Metal (LP, silver/black vinyl)
Formed in Newcastle the late 70s, Venom are a metal band closely associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (if a couple of years late to the party), and their sound was quite literally earth shattering.
After a number of line-up changes, the classic line-up featured bassist / vocalist Cronos, guitarist Mantas and drummer Abaddon. Yes, really. And Venom are largely (not quite single handedly) responsible for catalysing the thrash and black metal genres. So while they were often considered musically questionable, their influence should be recognised and importance assured.
This box, which upon opening, feels lovely and solid, concentrates on the band’s original run with this line-up, before changes in personnel and sound came in along-side a decline in popularity. Open the box and you get seven discs in individual card sleeves, and a booklet with extensive sleevenotes.
The band started as a covers band (as many do), and when they started writing their own material, and while Satanism had been covered by earlier bands, it was brought to the fore here, because they wanted to outdo Ozzy Osbourne.
Venom signed to local metal label and their debut album Welcome To Hell was released in 1981. Black sleeve, gold print, a goat’s head in a pentagram, you know what’s coming, and their sound matched. And it made Motorhead seem clean, tidy and melodic by comparison.
And speaking of which, there is a hint of Motorhead to Welcome To Hell’s opener Sons Of Satan (it does what it says on the tin) – if you can imagine Motorhead passed through a cheesegrater or used to tarmac a road with. The energy is obvious, and at times the riffage comes from the bass while the guitar produces a solo. The music clearly about attitude and energy, and after a decade of progressive pomposity and the aforementioned satanism that was lame by comparison, it was a complete reaction. The album’s title track doesn’t so much welcome you to hell as take you there, kicking and screaming. Standout and genuinely memorable track In League With Satan helped define a genre.
1982’s Black Metal took things a stage further, and while it dipped into what would become speed metal and thrash, it helped define the subgenre that it lent its name too.
While many of their contemporaries were becoming more sleek, certainly popular, Venom’s following remained bubbling just above cult level.
1984’s It War With Satan saw Venom tighten up somewhat, without losing their edge, and the 20 minute title track was almost progressive (it certainly made the first two albums look a little sloppy).
A bit like a Rush album, a 20 minute concept one side, and several 3 minute blasters the other, and while maybe less iconic than the previous album it is certainly a much better listen.
1985’s Possessed was another solid but received mixed reviews at the time. On the surface the songs are as noisy and cluttered as ever, but a little deeper the work is a bit more polished.
1986’s Eime Kleine Nachtmusik was the last release of the original line-up and is a live album that takes parts of two shows, one being the Hammersmith Odeon 1985, which has much enthusiasm in the audience reaction (such was their popularity at the time, a little above ‘cult’). The band are on form, explosive, but the fade-out and fade-in between some of the tracks makes it sound like a live best of rather than a representation of a full live show. If you like metal that verges on thrash with lots of energy, you’ll love this.
Disc 6, titled Sons Of Satan, is a collection of previously unreleased 1979 rehearsals and 1980 demos. Interesting to hear, fans and collectors will love. But it’s also where we have a serious missed opportunity. There are a significant number of non-LP A & B sides that are not included. While they have been included on previous issues, this is otherwise such a good package that the omission here is glaring.
The final disc is a DVD video of a 1984 Hammersmith show, seeing the band on top form. Energetic, over the top, tight pants, bullet belts, dry ice, pyrotechnics, however cliched it is still a good show. If you like Venom.
In many many ways, there is SO much to love about sets like this. For, whatever you think about the band (ear bleeding metal is not everyone’s cup of Darjeeling), the collection of consecutive albums that complete a genre with video and booklet, in an easily accessible form (good booklet too), with bonuses, the known bonuses (ie singles and b-sides) are screaming out to be considered and included. Still well worth investing in, though.
To coincide with this package and the 40th anniversary of the ground breaking Black Metal album, the LP is also reissued on a very solid feeling black/silver splatter vinyl. Not only does it sound good, but if feels good too. There’s an insert and innersleeve, too, which is how LPs should be issued. If you’re a fan and collector, this is well worth investing in.
While much reviled and/or lampooned, Venom did break new ground and definitely have an important place. These packages do them largely but not complete justice.
Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine